American Nationalism in the Early Twenty-first Century:  A Discursive Analysis of the Politics of Immigration and National Security

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Virginia Tech

This thesis uses Benedict Anderson's theoretical contributions on the topic of national identity and Michel Foucault's contributions toward discourse analysis to perform a discursive analysis of Donald Trump's campaign speeches in which he exploits pre-existing anti-immigration sentiments among certain voters to gain political power. The research question addressed herein is: How has Donald Trump invoked the issue of national security to single out groups of immigrants as threats to U.S. national security, and what conditions exists so that he is able to do so in a way that enlists the support of a sizeable portion of the American public?

First, this thesis works to put into context what drove post-World War II immigration in the U.S. to provide insight into what conditions lead to certain groups being encouraged or discouraged from immigrating. Second, I contrast Anderson's concept of nationalism with that of Samuel Huntington, whose idea of nationalism more closely aligns with Trump's nativist sense of national identity. Third, having put the history of U.S. immigration and the concept of national identity into context, I perform a discursive analysis of three of Trump's campaign speeches and tweets that focus on immigration and make problematic his racist, far-right ideology and its purpose toward the de-politicization and de-historicization of immigration as a national security and economic issue. I conclude by reminding the reader that allowing anti-immigrant discourse to become normalized without the burden of proof can lead to curbed freedoms under an authoritarian regime, a direction toward which Trump appears ready and willing to lead the American electorate.

Immigration, Discourse, Anderson, Trump, National Identity, Nationalism